Articles Posted in Other Torts

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In fall 2021, Silverman Thompson filed suit in federal court in Pennsylvania on behalf of a provider of inmate communication services for prisons. The suit alleged that just as Silverman Thompson’s client was about to finalize a contract with a county prison, the incumbent service provider and business rival used illegal, anti-competitive tactics to scuttle the deal and secure a renewal of its contract with the prison. After extensive preliminary motions practice, the district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, but gave Silverman Thompson’s client the opportunity to amend. Confident in its claims as drafted by Silverman Thompson, the client elected to stand on the complaint and appealed the dismissal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

After briefing and oral argument in the Third Circuit led by Silverman Thompson attorneys, the client’s choice was vindicated in December 2023 when the appeals court issued an opinion vacating the dismissal and remanding for further proceedings in the district court to more fully evaluate whether the complaint stated claims under Pennsylvania common law.

On remand, the district court re-examined whether the complaint adequately alleged “independently actionable conduct” by the business rival sufficient to state a claim for tortious interference.  Finding that the complaint had adequately alleged defamation of Silverman Thompson’s client as a means of preventing it from getting the contract, the court denied the motion to dismiss the tortious interference claim.  The case will now go forward to discovery.

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On of the most common dispute between businesses involves a tort know as tortious Interference of contract. Maryland recognizes two types of tortious interference claims: “inducing the breach of an existing contract and, more broadly, maliciously or wrongfully interfering with economic relationships in the absence of a breach of contract.” Kaser v. Fin. Prot. Mktg., Inc., 376 Md. 621, 628 (2003).

The two claims share the same elements – intentional acts done with the unlawful or wrongful purpose to cause damage to plaintiff’s lawful business with actual damage resulting – and can arise only out of the relationship between three parties, the two parties to the contract and a separate interferer. The three-party relationship applies equally in the instance of a business relationship where no express contract exists; however, in such situations, the right of an individual to interfere is treated more broadly.
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